Construction cranes above MLK & Guadalupe are the only high altitude action currently underway at this intersection. That could soon change. Wednesday, members of the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority signed off on a study that could launch a gondola type transit system called 'The Wire' from the same location.
"There are a lot of hurdles to overcome, of course, I think we have to look as to whether or not this will work for Austin,” said CTRMA Executive Director Mike Heiligenstein.
The mobility authority is chipping in a third of the $15-thousand cost for the feasibility study. The rest of the money is coming from Cap Metro and the City of Austin. The idea was pitched by Jared Ficklin, who spoke to FOX 7 earlier this month.
"I'd like to see it in the next 5 years."
The Austin wire project would stretch eight miles from MLK to Slaughter Lane, over Guadalupe and South 1st.
Ficklin says the wire, which could cost up to $600 million, would use 10-person cars, traveling 30 seconds apart, at 12 mph with 19 stops.
"This is a capacity equal to running 100 buses an hour. 50 north, 50 south, it could carry 6,000 people an hour," said Ficklin. The idea may be unique to the U.S. but tramway systems are being used in other countries as part of a larger mass transit system.
"I think there are definitely some differences with regard to what’s happening in those communities and the situation we have here, but there are also some things that make us think that it’s potentially viable, it could work,” said CTRMA Board member Nikelle Meade.
This high wire proposal may never get off the ground, but there are other extreme transportation ideas the Mobility Authority has looked into. Some are fantastic and others are a little more realistic.
Some of the transit ideas pitched include self-driving vehicles on elevated tracks and supersonic trains. So far, only the use of dedicated road lanes for expressway buses has moved forward. Warner Miller, who has used tramways in Europe, believes Austin is long past due for thinking out of the box.
"Anything that can utilize extra space will be the best option."
The wire study will be done by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute.
It’s estimated the study will only take nine weeks to complete.